• Megan Maley

Should we try a spending fast?

Updated: Apr 16, 2018

Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

OMG I am debating doing something I have only ever briefly contemplated but always quickly dismissed as "no way... not for me." I am honest to goodness considering a SPENDING FAST.

My social media fast was legit successful in changing my social media habits... so could a spending fast be the answer to changing my/our spending habits?

Full disclosure: my husband and I incurred no debt from our modest wedding, have no student loan debt between us, we have one vehicle paid for, live in a home that is well "below our means" (i.e. our housing costs in total are about 10% of our take-home pay), and *were* literally about 10 months from being debt-free with the exception of our home.

Then we found out we were pregnant. In a mad rush, we financed a "whole home" renovation because we couldn't fathom going through the necessary home improvements with an infant/toddler in our lives... and we had just refinanced our home from a 30-year mortgage to a 15-year mortgage, so we knew we'd be staying in this home for quite a while. We have a plan to have this home paid for in a little less than 10 years at our current repayment schedule... and we are both 100% committed to eliminating mortgage debt (and all debt for that matter).

Having read every book that Dave Ramsey has ever written (which is how we eliminated most of debt the first time around), I know the required steps that need to be undertaken to get to that place again, and feel confident we can get there within a 12 month period if we buckle down.

But "buckle down" means something different for me than it does for my husband. Don't get me wrong, he's on the minimalism bandwagon... we fought that battle a few years ago and successfully came out on the side of "less" and both on the same page. (I breezed through that but it was actually a long process that took nearly a year and constant conversation and negotiating and re-negotiating... and I'll share that story at some point because I think it would be helpful for others.) But in his mind (which is understandable), spending on experiences and activities is a green light. After all, he's given up the majority of his stuff and changed his habits to dis-include the mall and mindless trips to TJ Maxx and perusing online stores out of boredom... but heading out in the evenings for a meal and hitting up the range to hit a bucket of balls and booking rounds of golf on the weekend... these are experiences so spending on them is ok... right?

For the most part... unless you are in debt. And we are.

During our "get out of debt" process, we both started with high incomes and low cost of living... so to make massive strides in debt reduction, we never really had to scale back like some folks do. Yeah we scaled back a little bit and planned for our big purchases using cash... but we still went to dinners and paid for experiences that enriched our lives... but strategically. Now, with a baby on the way, we have increased our contribution to our retirement savings (because I have a sneaky suspicion that if we don't do it now... we'll never find the room in our budget to do it), increased our savings contributions (for household and baby both), and increased the amount we are paying down on principal on our mortgage, all the while, having taken on a home renovation loan which we are now on the hook to pay back. Yes, we are out of order from the baby steps prescribed by Dave Ramsey... and we may revert to the baby steps to tackle our remaining debt... but at the time we transitioned away from debt repayment to bulking up our savings, we had extremely modest interest rates on our remaining loan that cost less than the interest we were forfeiting by forgoing savings. Hope that makes sense.

Bottom line: in order to make a dent in our remaining debt (and ultimately reduce the total amount of interest paid to lenders), we need to buckle down. Restructuring our cash flow towards debt makes little difference if we don't change our spending habits. A spending fast seems like a great way both scale back and perhaps change our spending habits for the long term. I can't help but feel pulled toward this experiment and feel like it would be a really healthy change of pace for our financial future.

Joshua Becker (becomingminimalist.com) shared an article from the NY Times on Twitter the other day which really got my wheels turning about implementing a spending fast or a "shopping ban" as author Susan Shain calls it. The article, Save Money and Reset Your Financial Life With a Shopping Ban, walks through the process of creating your spending fast:

1. Track your spending

2. Take inventory

3. Create your rules

4. Surround yourself with support

5. Confront your triggers, change your habits

6. Make, mend and borrow

7. Accept your mistakes

8. Consider the bigger picture

Shain also refers to a book by Cait Flanders called "The Year of Less" which is up next in my goodreads reading queue. (If you are curious what I am reading, you can find me on goodreads here... and side plug, I cannot recommend goodreads enough.) This book is available on Audible.com and is only a 5-hour listen (faster if you're like me and listen to everything on accelerated speed) so I'm STRONGLY considering listening to this next before I make any firm decisions.

In the meantime, I'm busy seriously considering how this framework would apply to our lives and what it might look like for us with a baby coming in the next few months (which, by the way, we still need to purchase several items to prepare for).

I plan on talking to the husband about this and if we decide to undertake this spending fast, I'll report back on the rules we decide on. I'm both nervous and excited about the possibility of both reducing our debt AND changing our spending habits for the better... hopefully for the long term.

Has anyone implemented a spending fast or a shopping ban? How did it go? What did your rules look like? Please provide any feedback!

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